That’s it, I’m dead meat. I know, I know. The story literally just started, but I am TOAST.
In fact, we all are.
Check out the gnarly creature chasing me and my friends.
That thing’s called a ramgore.
Extremely grumpy. And do you see those horns? Trust me, you don’t want to be on the business end of those horns.
That’s me, Coop—front and center. Coop Cooperson. Yes, my name is really Coop Cooperson. And if you didn’t already know, you’re reading my adventures. I keep a journal of everything that happens to me. Mainly because I’m the only human kid ever at Dungeoneer Academy.
My best friend, Oggie—he draws all the pictures. That’s him on the right. The tall bugbear, eyes wide and panting hard. He’s basically, like, the best artist in the whole school.
Next to Oggie is Mindy. She’s an imp. And right now she’s struggling to keep up because of that giant backpack of hers. Weighs her down like an anchor. Who wears a backpack that huge, filled with that much random stuff? Mindy, that’s who. She says it’s because a dungeoneer needs to be prepared for anything. Which is true. But one thing I’ve learned over and over again in my short time here at Dungeoneer Academy . . . you also need to be prepared to run for your life!
Luckily, Daz is there to give Mindy a hand as we leap for the slimy rock wall in front of us. Daz is a boggart, and easily the most awesome of our team. She’s smart, fast, skilled . . . and, well, kinda cute.
Wait a minute—I can’t be thinking about cute girls at a time like this! Get your head in the game, Coop! Your future at Dungeoneer Academy is riding on this. All of our futures are!
I clamber up the slimy surface of the wall, and almost slip to my doom. But my hands find a firm grip, and I barely pull myself out of harm’s way as the ramgore slams its mighty horns into the wall with a THUD!
Whew! That was close. But there’s no time to rest. We run full speed ahead into the next hallway, and out of nowhere this green, stinky gas pours from a vent in the stone walls. Ick! A gas trap! It smells like an ogre ate a trash salad sandwich and burped in my face. We’ve got to keep moving.
“Wait!” Mindy yells.
I accidentally step on a pressure-plate! Something sharp and pointy whizzes by my head.
We dash forward, not even watching where we step! Gouts of flame blast from jets in the floor and ceiling! We weave through them, the fire so hot it burns my nostrils.
All of a sudden a pendulum blade swings toward us from the darkness above.
“Duck!” yells Oggie.
We dive out of the way. Well, everyone except Mindy. She hits the floor, and her humongous backpack tumbles onto her head. The pendulum narrowly misses slicing her in two.
“Mindy!” I scream.
“I’m fine!” she says, muffled under her backpack.
The pendulum sways back and forth above her like an old tire swing. Well, an old, razor-sharp, murderous tire swing.
“Just stay down!” I reply. She’ll be fine if she doesn’t move. But we’ve got to press on. Time is against us.
We charge forward, and next thing I know, Oggie sticks out his big furry arm to stop me from plunging down into a pit.
“Whoa. Thanks, pal!” I say.
“Don’t mention it,” says Oggie. He sighs.
“Just follow my lead.” I take a step back and jump to the first platform in front of us.
Daz leaps right behind me as I leap to the second platform, and Oggie follows her.
Now, I should probably explain something about Oggie. Oggie is superstrong, and like I said before, he’s a great artist. Oh, and of course he’s the best friend anyone could ever ask for. But Oggie . . . well, he’s kinda clumsy. He says he’s still growing into his body, and sometimes his big old feet can’t keep up with his brain.
And that’s exactly what happens as he leaps from one platform to the next. Oggie’s feet go all wonky, and he spins out of control like a dizzy ballerina.
BAM! Oggie accidentally bumps into Daz, and she loses her footing too. I turn around, but there’s nothing I can do. They both go tumbling into the murky water below with a SPLASH!
“Oggie!” Daz yells as her head bobs up from the water. She’s clearly frustrated.
“Sorry, Daz.” Oggie is soaking wet and looks about a hundred pounds thinner.
“Whatever,” Daz mutters under her breath. She turns my direction as I bound to the other side of the chasm.
And then it’s all up to me.
But just when I think there’s time to take a deep breath and get my bearings, I hear the sound of grinding stone so loud that it rattles my bones. I glance behind me and see a giant boulder rolling down a ramp from above. My legs feel like jelly, but if I don’t move now, I’ll be pancake batter!
The boulder slams on the ground where I was just standing a second earlier, and the whole dungeon shakes like an earthquake. Small rocks pelt me from the ceiling, and I can’t help but scream. I dart through the dark tunnel as the boulder barrels behind me just a few feet away.
Then I see it. The glowing pink gem. It’s sitting on a golden pedestal at the other end of a pit. By the look of things, I’ll need to swing on a ropy vine hanging from the ceiling to get to the other side of the pit. I don’t have a moment to think.
But right before I jump, I make the dumb, dumb, DUMB decision to look down. Staring back at me from the darkness below is a giant spider. I stop in my tracks.
My knees start shaking. I can see its ooey, gooey mandibles glistening in the dark. Did I mention I hate spiders? Like, really hate them?
So, this is where I actually die. I know I said I was toast earlier, but I really think I’m going to have to end it here, folks. I never should have enrolled in Dungeoneer Academy. No Junior Dungeoneer Badge is worth this! I mean, I certainly didn’t expect that I would die in my first semester! Maybe I’m just not cut out for this stuff.
As I contemplate my mortality, I hear the faint voices of my friends echoing through the dungeon. “Come on, Coop! You can do it!” they say. “You’re our last chance!” And suddenly I’m filled with a little bit of hope.
At least enough to leap out of the way of the rolling boulder before it flattens me!
Only trouble is, I didn’t have a running start. I barely grab hold of the vine and cling for dear life. But without any momentum? I can’t swing to the other side!
“Come on!” I wiggle on the vine like a worm on a hook. I’ll never get the gem now.
Falling into a dark pit is bad enough, but worse than that . . . I’m about to be spider food. The giant spider’s fangs foam and froth as it inches toward me. My sweaty hands slip, and I slide down the vine.